We spoke with Hurd to get a few teases on what’s ahead (without spoiling any of the twists and turns) and some general thoughts on where the show will be heading in Season 4. We also talked about preventing spoilers from leaking out, fan reaction to divisive characters like Andrea and how “The Walking Dead” team knew Scott Gimple was the right choice as the next showrunner.
Season 3 has been so great, I can’t wait to see these final two episodes. How would you describe them in just a few words?
Gale Anne Hurd: I’d say intense and shocking.
From what I’ve heard, the finale sets the tone for Season 4 and it may be different from what we’ve seen this season?
I don’t think it takes any huge left turns. The show continues to evolve. Every season there’s continuity from the season before but the stakes tend to vary. Every season we have different obstacles and threats and that will continue into Season 4.
And there’s been some talk that the walkers will be an even bigger threat in Season 4?
It’s funny, this is a world in which you have to be careful not to become too complacent. I think our survivors may have become a little too complacent. So…
Or a little bit arrogant?
Yeah, they may have their comeuppance.
They did manage to take the prison, and that must make them feel strong.
What is the saying? “Pride goeth before a fall”?
Right. Obviously everyone’s always eager to find out what’s going to happen next, but how hard do you work to prevent spoilers from leaking out?
Apparently not hard enough.
Yeah, I’ve heard about some photos turning up online…
Well, there are some that are wrong that are sort of home doctored. But, you know, it is certainly one of the reasons why we’re not sending out the last two episodes [for press to see in advance].
Season 3 coming to an end also means the end of Glen Mazzara’s tenure as showrunner. Fans seem to be really excited with the direction he took the show, but when it became clear he wouldn’t be back for Season 4 were there any nerves about having to change showrunners again?
Well, we have the same writers. [New showrunner] Scott Gimple wrote some of the key episodes, and he’s been around as long as Glen. I think it’s odd that people think [Mazzara] was fired. The truth is his contract was up and there was a negotiation that ended up not working out. That’s often the case.
Scott Gimple was officially announced as the new showrunner the week that “Clear” aired. He wrote the episode and fans responded to it very positively. Was that timing a coincidence?
[The announcement] wasn’t really timed that way. There were a couple of things. One was the writers room was gearing up, so that was the impetus. The writers room was forming for Season 4. And also the Paley Center was the first event prior to the new season starting where all of our cast was together along with the executive producers. So it seemed like a very good time.
But it still had to be nice to see the reaction to that episode.
We already knew it was really great. [laughs] If we didn’t, I don’t think we would’ve come this far. The important thing is continuity. Glen had enormous responsibility and did a fantastic job taking the reins from Frank. Glen had written one of the episodes in the first season. Scott had been on since the second season. I think continuity is absolutely essential for the show.
Someone who understands the characters and the world and the history.
Yes. And is completely in line with the rest of the team, including the actors.
I understand the storylines for the first eight episodes of next season are already broken. How much input do you have in that process, or do you leave it to the writers?
All of the executive producers are involved in a kick-off meeting. We sit down and bounce ideas around. But because the writers are there day to day, you can’t be the Monday morning quarterback. There’s a lot of feedback, but when we met with Scott even before the announcement was made to see what his vision was, all of us — executive producers, as well as AMC — were incredibly supportive [of his vision].
Are there particular aspects of the show that you feel either protective of or invested in and want to make sure they turn out a certain way?
I think it’s important that whenever we do deviate significantly from the comic book that it’s a choice that either expands upon, improves upon or there’s a reason for doing it. The comic book is such a fantastic road map. It’s certainly something I respect and admire. That said, we are on separate tracks. Sometimes they cross over, but not always. But Robert [Kirkman] is in the writers room. He’s there every day as these decisions are being made and the stories are broken. He’s very involved, as he should be. As I’m sure George R.R. Martin is for “Game of Thrones.”
Andrea’s storyline has divided the fans this season. I think it’s been fascinating to see a character torn between the two worlds of Woodbury and the prison, but what’s your take on some of the more negative reactions to it?
It always happens to women!
Yeah, it happened with Lori too.
You have sex with more than one guy and all of a sudden… It’s a huge double standard. The truth is the audience knows more than Andrea does. By the way, the audience knew more than Lori did too. She thought her husband was dead. Survival in this world is such that there are all kinds of compromises. I think both Lori and Andrea are trying — or in the case of Lori, tried — to keep their humanity and to make the right decisions even if they are difficult ones. The minute R
ick returned, Lori called it off with Shane. With Andrea, the minute she found out who the Governor really was her mission has been to save not only the people of Woodbury but also try to notify her friends back at the prison what they’re up against. What she couldn’t do — and I don’t think you can criticize her for that — is she couldn’t kill the Governor in cold blood. I don’t know many people who could. I think that’s a good thing actually.
What do you think it is about the fact that the female characters get the brunt of this? Is it sexism from genre fans?
No, I think the depiction of female characters is just much more complicated. Complicated not only socioculturally in the show but also in the world today. When you think of a guy who has quote, unquote slept around he’s a player and a woman is a slut. If you look at it that way it’s not surprising that fans responded this way. It’s part of how we view the world.
The show has a great cast but there are a few characters we’d still like to get to know better. Do you think we’ll see more of, say, Beth or Carol in the future?
That’s the joy of each new season, we have the opportunity to grow their characters and spend more time with them. I think that will happen.